Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Simultaneous Exhibition and the Memphis Chess Champion

Memphis simultaneous exhibitions encouraged the city's club players and helped the general public become aware of the the local chess club.  Harry Nelson Pillsbury's visit in 1901 inspired the original founders of the Memphis Chess Club to reorganize and to make the club better known and thereby generating more public participation.  When John Hurt started playing chess in Memphis he captured the city championship and had to run the gauntlet of a club tradition, the simultaneous.  It gave a chance of revenge for the defeated city championship's candidates, and to the city's amateurs a moment of honor.  John and others, through the years, also promoted chess by many more selfless acts and sacrifices.

Tennessee Chess News May–June 1962

John Hurt Again Memphis Champ

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For the second straight year John Hurt captured the Memphis City title by a score of 12–2.
The event was an 8 player double round robin and USCF rated.  Hunter Weaks took second followed by James Wright for third.  Surprising was Eddie Middleton's failure to score higher than fifth behind Mark Gilley.  John Hurt as city champ gave a simul against all comers.  Despite heavy odds he won by 10–9, and yielding three draws.

Tennessee Chess News March 1963

News In Brief

John Hurt gave several simultaneous exhibitions, winning at Greenwood without a loss, and at Jackson with 8 wins, 2 draws, and 3 losses.  He barely won at Memphis as Hunter Weaks, Mark Gilley, and Eddie Middleton were coaching weaker opponents.

Tennessee Chess News September 1963

News In Brief

John Hurt has taken it upon himself to instruct thirty youngsters ranging in ages from six to sixteen at the Optimist Club in Memphis.  A very commendable thing and we hope rewarding experience and a challenge.

Tennessee Chess News May 1966

Chess In High Schools

That chess in high schools is taking place in two major cities of Tennessee was probably unheard of only a few years ago.  But since promoters of chess in Memphis and Nashville have taken an interest this has become a reality.

Under the sponsorship of John Hurt, TCA proxy, the Memphis High School Chess League began on November 20, 1965.  Some ten high schools, each having five members on a team, met for nine consecutive weeks at the Memphis Public Library to determine the best team.  As winner, the Catholic High School of Memphis emerged.  The organization sponsoring this event was the Optimist Club.

November 20 – February 26


1. Catholic H.S.

2. Overton H.S.

3. Christian Brother H.S.

4. White Station

5. East High School

6. Central H.S.

7. Whitehaven

8. West Memphis

9. Kingsbury

10. Tech

Below are qualification articles used in the old, now defunct, Memphis & Shelby County Chess League:


ARTICLE I: Eligibility and Size of Teams

A.      A Team shall represent only one high school in Memphis or Shelby County, Tennessee.

B.     The team shall consist of four (4) full-time high school students currently enrolled in the school they are to represent, and alternates also under the same ruling.

C.    High schools outside Memphis or Shelby County, Tennessee may compete, but their teams will not be recognized to represent Memphis & Shelby County at the Tennessee State High School Team Championship.

1.     All rules for competition will apply equally to those teams outside Memphis & Shelby County (Article II).

ARTICLE II: Eligibility of Team Members

A.     All team members and alternates will be current members of the U.S. Chess Federation.

B.    A team member or alternate shall be entered to compete on one team only.

C.    All team members or alternates will be currently enrolled as full-time high school students (9th   through 12th grades) in the school they are to represent at the beginning of the competition (October) unless a student changes enrollment before the halfway point in the competition.

D.    All team members shall reside in Memphis or Shelby County unless extremely exceptional circumstances exist, in which case it will be left to the discretion of the tournament director.

ARTICLE III: The Team Competition

A.     The Memphis & Shelby County Team Championship shall be an annual event held during the months of October through January, unless otherwise specified, at a public facility, e.g. public library or at the Memphis Chess Club Meeting Site.

B.    The competition will be a single round-robin event played one round per week each successive Saturday unless otherwise notified by the Tournament Director

C.    The winner of the team championship will be the "official" representative for Memphis & Shelby County at the annual Tennessee High School Team Championship in January at Nashville, Tennessee.

1.    Other teams wishing to compete at the Tennessee State Championship will be encouraged to do so, but they will not receive the 'official' status or sponsorship by the Memphis Chess Club or other recognized sponsors of the competition.

D.    The winning team shall have its school name engraved on the John F. Hurt High School Team Plaque, that is kept in the permanent possession of the. Memphis Chess Club, and displayed in the club trophy case.

E.    The winning team will also receive a gratuity to be used toward expenses of the team to attend the annual Tennessee High School Team Championship from the Memphis Chess Club and other sponsors.

F.    In the case where the winning team is unable to attend, then the next eligible runner up team shall be sponsored to attend the event.

G.    In the case where more than one eligible team is tied, with equal winning scores at the completion of the event, they shall be declared co-champions, and all honors and gratuities shall be shared equally (Official Rules of Chess, USCF Section, Art. 2 "Awarding Prizes" and Art. 3 "Questionable Cases").

ARTICLE IV: Selection and Duties of the Team Captain

Selection of the Team Captain:

A.    1. Each team shall designate one of its members to serve as team captain.

        2. The identity of each Team Captain shall be made known to tournament officials during the period of registration in October.

Tennessee Chess News May 1966

The Nashville High School Team Tournament took place on January 8, 1966 at Howard High School.  Some nine teams with four players each from five high schools participated.  The event was played as a four round Swiss system.  The winning team was Litton I for which their school received a large trophy plus individual trophies.  Second was the team from Overton I.  Each player here received a chess book.

Tennessee Chess News May 1967

News in Brief

Some twenty-seven players opposed John Hurt in a simultaneous in Memphis as is the custom for the winner of the city championship.  John won 18, drew 3, and lost five for an excellent record.  The Memphis club has risen to about 45 members.

Tennessee Chess News July 1971

Chess Activity in Memphis

That a girl not only participated but also won a tournament that's news.  It happened in the first Raleigh–Egypt Invitational in Memphis.  Leza Sturduvant won out over 10 players by a score of 4½–½.  She was fortunate to get a stalemate in her game with Victor Lendermon as he had a won game.  Victor came in second 4–1.

John Hurt recently won the five minute speed tourney in Memphis.  Marty Appleberry was second.  John Hurt, as is customary for Memphis Champion, gave a (club) simul in which he scored 11 wins, 2 draws, and 4 losses (James Wright, Marty Appleberry, Kenny Thomas and Gary Pylant).

Tennessee Chess News November 1972

News in Brief

Membership of the Memphis Chess Club has risen sharply and now stands at over 90 members.  The club has put their club ladder on a computer (operated by Jim Hammons)  which shows current standings for the past 12 weeks.  John Hurt and Eddie Middleton will give a simul at J.C. Penny on November 4, 1972.  The store will advertise with pictures and give chess sets to the winners.  The High School Chess League in Memphis started (its seasonal session) on October 14, 1972.  Fourteen teams are taking part including an all girl team.  John Hurt is the director.

Dave Truesdel gave a simultaneous exhibition at the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville on October 24, 1972.  He won all fifteen games.  Then a much larger number of players faced Dave at a simul at the 100 Oaks Shopping Center in Nashville on October 27, 1972.  He had 41 wins, drew 2, and lost 5. 

Other articles related to promoting chess activity:

Tennessee Chess News March 1966

How to Improve Chess Participation in Tennessee
By USCF Regional VP Peter Lahde

Recently there has been a decline in participation of chess events held in Tennessee.  This is partly due to the fact that some of the young people are occupied with the demands school makes on them.  Another reason is the usual number of people withdrawing from chess activity and our inability to get new blood to take their place.

Here are some ideas how we might try to get new people interested in chess and thereby increase our membership.

1. Have a club ladder with regular monthly ratings.
2. Instructions to beginners.
3. Get publicity in newspaper(s).
4. Have a newspaper chess column.
5. Have a high school team tourney.
6. Get your library and book stores to have a good selection of chess books.
7. Acquaint newly acquired players with the TCA and USCF.

Multiple Chess Clubs in Memphis

Tennessee Chess News March 1967

With the Clubs

Memphis – The Memphis Chess Club is now meeting at McLemore Christian Church (year 1967).  The annual club tourney got underway in the middle of Feb. with many top names – John Hurt, James Wright, Mark Gilley, Frank Garner, etc., seventeen players in all.

Another (Memphis) group meets on Wednesday nights at the Public Library and has 35 members.  Still, a third group meets at the home of Hunter Weaks (The Pillsbury Chess Club).

Tennessee Chess News February–March 1988

Guest Commentary

Recruit That Casual Fan
by Don L. Birchfield

Last year I was surprised to learn that my home state (Oklahoma) had 386 members of the United States Chess Federation, but only 110 members of the Oklahoma Chess Association.  Shocked by this discovery, I set out to correct this imbalance.

In two weeks I signed up fifteen new members in the OCA, a rate slightly better than one person per day.  Had I maintained this pace, the number of OCA members would have more than tripled…
But, alas, after two weeks, more pressing demands compelled my attention and some time passed before I could return to my objective.  However, for those two weeks I was an ambassador for organized, recorded, rated, and reported local chess.  I learned a few things about promoting local chess during that time, and I'd like to pass them on to you.

For one thing, I discovered that people have been joining our state association only when they had to as required for nearly all USCF tournaments in the state.  The OCA provides this sharply focused group of deadly serious tournament chess players with a quarterly bulletin reporting the results of recently completed tournaments, including crosstables and many games from the events, both annotated and unannotated, along with many fine articles by association members.

None of the people I approached about joining the OCA had ever seen a copy of the Oklahoma Chess Bulletin.  All of them were fascinated by it.  All of them who joined the OCA did so to get a subscription to the bulletin. 

As this phenomenon repeated itself, I gradually came to realize a few things about casual chess players.  First, I learned the casual players are fascinated by USCF Masters.  We were  fortunate to have three very active Masters in Oklahoma, Masters who not only competed often, but who shared their thoughts frequently with annotated games in the bulletin.  For the casual player, the opportunity to see how a Master plays a game of chess, and to study these games at their leisure, prompted most of them to join the OCA on the spot.  Now, when I say casual players, none of them knew chess notation or ever heard of a chess clock.  Yet, they love to play chess and have been playing for years.  Now, I don't mean to disparage casual chess players.  They love chess and I love chess and I love them for their love of chess.  But to get them to join your state association, you have to do a bit of teaching along with the selling.

So I taught them chess notation, and showed them what a chess clock looked like, if I happened to have one with me, or a picture of one from one of the ads in Chess Life.  I told them about the center of the board, demonstrating how the powers of the Queen, the Bishop, and the Knight are all enhanced if they can be placed in any one of the four center squares.  I explained how all of the standard openings are therefore predicated, in one way or another, on securing a share of that critical terrain.  This may sound like very basic stuff, but it was, without exception, news to them.  If you're beginning to get the picture that these people did not exactly fit your standard profile of a USCF affiliated state association member, then you are on the right track.  Yet, all of them became card-carrying, dues paying members of the same.

Where did I find them?  Coffee shops mostly.  Only three or four were even casual acquaintances.  More were total strangers.  I'd carry a small chess set with me (the kind that folds in half forming a box to hold the pieces inside, with the chessboard easily recognizable on the outside), set it on the counter beside my coffee, along with my chess magazines, and wait for some acton.  It usually did not take long.

1) Carry around a copy of your chess magazine.  Make it a part of your gear.
2) Be able to move with ease and facility from feature to feature in the chess magazine.
3) Don't be afraid to teach what you know, chess notation, the operation of a chess clock, how Steinitz changed chess and why Romanticists hated him bitterly for it. . . even the most rudimentary principles, clearly presented might provide the spark that rekindles someone's interest.
4) Don't allow yourself to become bored with basic principles.  A distinguished historian once urged his colleges to "remember that you are doing your best teaching when you are explaining for the 1,000th time how to pursue a topic through the library."  The same might be said for demonstrating why it is rarely advisable to bring one's Queen into play early.
5 ) The people you recruit need not have the inclination to become tournament players.  It is all right for them to be fans, (dues paying, non-tournament-participatory patrons, if you will).  The local media is not going to create them for you.  You have to do that yourself, one fan at a time.

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